Trump’s Second Impeachment Moves to the Senate

Jack Matthews, Staff Writer

After voting on Jan. 13, the House of Representatives delivered the sole article of Impeachment to the Senate on Jan. 25, marking the beginning of the second formal trial of former President Donald Trump. Senators were sworn in as jurors by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the most senior member of the caucus in the Senate. Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over then-President Trump’s first Impeachment trial, is not serving the same role this time around due to the transition into President Joe Biden’s administration. 

Trump is being charged with “high crimes and misdemeanors” for his alleged role in sparking the insurrection that occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6 while members of Congress were voting to confirm Biden’s election victory, as well as sowing distrust in the general election process for weeks both before and after Election Day. According to the Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office for Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Republicans moved to end the trial before it began, with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky bringing a procedural objection to the Constitutionality of the trial. Paul claimed that since the powers of Impeachment were intended to remove an elected official from office, they should not continue the process because Trump no longer serves as President. Democrats rejected that claim, pointing to the 1876 impeachment of a Secretary of War who had resigned before the trial and a number of Constitutional law scholars who have defended the process despite the accused no longer holding office. 

The vote split largely along party lines, with only five Republicans, (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah), expected to vote against Trump. Since the vote to convict requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, 17 Republicans would have to go against the general opinion of their colleagues and Trump’s still-devoted supporters. The former President has promised to “primary the hell out of” those in his party who would not defend him. His son Eric Trump told Fox News that any Republican senator or any Congressperson who chose not to fight would have their political career ended.

Senator Paul pointed to the results as proof that there are not enough votes amongst Republicans to convict the former President, and that “we’re basically wasting our time.” Amongst those who agreed with the notion that the trial is unconstitutional was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior Senator from Kentucky who had previously placed blame for the riots at the feet of Trump. 

“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.”

He has implied that he may be open to vote for conviction, though at this point he has not made an announcement regarding his final decision on the matter. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and McConnell agreed to delay the beginning of the official trial by two weeks to Feb. 9, rather than directly after the delivery of the Articles of Impeachment. This works in favor of both sides of the aisle because President Biden still has cabinet positions and other nominations that need Senate confirmation, and Republicans have stated that once the trial starts there will be no votes on confirmations. Therefore, the two weeks allow Biden’s administration time to get important members confirmed. The pause also gives Trump time to assemble his legal team and begin crafting a plan as to how they will go about their defense. Just this past Sunday, however, Trump parted with his two lead Impeachment lawyers, with one person involved in the situation stating that it was a “mutual decision.”

If the Senate does vote to convict, a simple majority vote on a separate measure could bar Trump from ever running for office again, a vote that would be far easier for Democrats who hold a razor thin 51-50 majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker. Regardless of the former or latter votes, Trump will still receive much of the benefits of being a former President, including his pension. On top of this, it is likely that Trump will continue to be a force in the Republican Party, regardless of the results of the trial.